Counseling Program News
Learning to Use Your School Counselor
The school year is underway with many opportunities and challenges. While it is common for parents to focus on the school's classroom teachers, there are other important resources at school including the school counselors, psychologist, and social worker. School counselors are the professionals educated and trained to work with students in terms of human development, relationship issues and the many choices that students have to face.
While most of us are aware that school counselors can help with many of the "problems in living" and relationship issues that growing youngsters have to face. They also teach lessons in the classrooms and run small groups.
School counselors are among the best educated and trained professionals in your child's school. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires counselors hold at least a Masters degree in counseling. Having well-trained professionals as school counselors helps them understand both the educational process and the developmental stages that children go through. They understand the significant self-concept developmental issues that occur and know how to help students facing difficulties.
Many parents fail to realize that their school counselor is there to not only help the students, but can also provide assistance to parents facing problems with their child. When you're dealing with your child's unhappiness with school, the school counselor is the resource you need.
An excellent investment for you as a parent is to make an appointment, within the first semester, to meet your child's school counselor and to understand the services she can provide. You'll probably find your school counselor's expertise can be a valuable asset in trying to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child.
Adapted from the American Counseling Association
Teasing Isn't Something To Be Ignored
from the American Counseling Association
Teasing may often seem a normal part of childhood. Most parents have had to comfort a teary-eyed child who has been the victim of a teasing episode at school. It's just what children do, right?
While schools are working harder to combat schoolyard violence and bullying, too often teasing is dismissed as something minor and commonplace that doesn't do much harm. However, the reality is that teasing can have painful and long-lasting effects. Studies have found that children who are repeatedly teased may end up suffering from depression, anxiety and sleep problems. They are more likely to avoid school, and in severe cases can suffer from serious emotional and psychological issues.
Parents often try to encourage their son or daughter to pay no attention to being teased, repeating that old adage, "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Or they may be dismissive, telling the child to tough it out, saying that being teased just builds character. Such advice, however, doesn't really help and may just convince the child that mom and dad really don't understand how painful it is being teased. Sometimes that can lead to the child withdrawing and not sharing experiences.
Instead, experts advise letting your child know that what has upset him or her is just as serious a problem to you. Listen sympathetically to what happened and try and see the problem from your child's point of view. Don't be critical or disapprove of how your child handled the incident. He or she is already feeling picked upon and hurt. Be supportive, showing you understand why the teasing was upsetting. You might share stories, real or hypothetical, of your teasing experiences. Your child should understand it is perfectly normal to be upset by teasing.
Children can also learn how to handle or stop teasing. There are several books on the subject. Your child's school counselor can also help. The idea is not to report the teaser, since that will seldom stop the problem, but rather to get the counselor to help your child learn techniques to stop the teasing. A local professional counselor specializing in family and child counseling is another place to turn for assistance.
To adults, teasing may seem a minor issue, but for a child facing repeated taunting, harassment and ridicule, this is a problem that can have serious negative effects his or her life.
"Counseling Corner" is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments
and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at counseling.org
Adapted from review by Mari-Jane Williams Post Points
Children's wellness is influenced by many factors including adequate sleep, physical exercise, personal/social relationships, and healthy eating. If you are trying to figure out how to teach your children good eating habits and how to have a healthy relationship with food, check out, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.
The book, written by two dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobson, offers recipes and tips on meal planning, nutrition and fitting cooking into a busy schedule. Here are some tips, from the book:
*Rotate different fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and protein sources frequently in your child's diet. The more variety your child eats... the better her chances are of meeting specific nutrient requirements. Remember not to get hung up on how your child eats one day; instead, consider her intake over the course of the week.
*Instead of overcontrolling how much children eat ("You can have one cookie"), allow them to enjoy the sweets in a focused way until they are satisfied: "Let's sit at the table and enjoy the cookies."
*Serve meals family-style and allow your child to serve himself, helping him if he is under five years old. Serving items separately instead of mixing foods can help.
*Add foods to your teen's diet that lower cholesterol naturally: oats; barley; beans; eggplant; okra; nuts; vegetable oils; strawberries; citrus fruits; apples; grapes; soy; fatty fish; and foods fortified with sterols and stanols, such as margarine, granola, and chocolate.
May is Mental Health Month
There are many activities that promote well-being and help us achieve wellness. These include maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, appropriate amounts of sleep, maintaining a sense of self-worth, developing coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and staying connected to family, friends and the community.In an effort to increase awareness about mental health, we invite you to participate in Mental Health Month by spreading the role of wellness in fostering good mental health. This link offers suggestions to families to do during May to promote mental health http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may/calendar
"Pathways to Wellness" - this year's theme for Mental Health Month - calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health. Wellness involves complete general, mental and social well-being, and mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.
How does domestic violence affect children?
Domestic violence often includes child abuse. Children may be victimized and threatened as a way of punishing and controlling the adult victim of domestic violence. Or they may be injured unintentionally when acts of violence occur in their presence. Often episodes of domestic violence expand to include attacks on children. However, even when children are not directly attacked, they can experience serious emotional damage as a result of living in a violent household. Children living in this environment come to believe that this behavior is acceptable.
The estimated overlap between domestic violence and child physical or sexual abuse ranges from 30 to 50 percent. Some shelters report that the first reason many battered women give for fleeing the home is that the perpetrator was also attacking the children. Victims report multiple concerns about the effects of spousal abuse on children.
In Arlington County if you suspect Child Abuse (Child Protective Services) call 703-228-1500.
Common Sense Online
When elementary-aged children first start exploring the Internet, most parents are concerned about strangers - the chance children will meet a dangerous teen or adult. While parents do have to be aware of online strangers - and teach children to avoid them - keeping children safe online is a lot more than not giving private contact information to strangers. Staying safe is about a child's entire online experience. Beginning at the age when children start to interact on the internet - playing games, watching YouTube videos, socializing in virtual worlds, sharing pictures, and searching on Google - parents need to be actively involved in their children's online lives.
Teaching digital citizenship includes reminding children not to give out private information, to behave responsibly and respectfully toward others, and to understand the difference between ads and content. Being responsible about online life also means limiting the amount of time children spend online and teaching them to balance online activities with other activities. Start by visiting the sites your children enjoy (good links are available on the grade level web sites).
Keeping your children safe requires active parental engagement and real conversation about online life. In today's world, where children turn to the Internet for just about all of their interests, education is a parent's first line of defense in keeping children safe.
It's harder than ever for parents to keep track of what children are doing online. Children today can go online from so many different sources, including video game consoles, iPhones and smart phones, and even handheld gaming devices. Young people are increasingly living their lives online, and their digital devices are some of their favorite toys and tools. With active parent guidance the Internet can be a safe place; however, it is an ongoing process as children get older and technology evolves.
Parents More Influential Than Schools in Academic Success
Parents who want their children to succeed academically in school have more influence over that outcome than the schools themselves, according to a study by researchers from three universities.
"The effort that parents are putting in at home in terms of checking homework, reinforcing the importance of school, and stressing the importance of academic achievement is ultimately very important to their children's academic achievement," Dr. Toby Parcel, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. and a co-author of the study, told Education Week.
To arrive at their findings, researchers used the National Education Longitudinal Study data to evaluate social capital at home and at school. Parcel said her group evaluated results from 10,000 12th graders, taking into account their composite test scores in math, reading, science, and history to measure achievement levels.
Researchers compared measures of "family social capital" and "school social capital," discovering that even in schools that had low social capital, students were more likely to excel if their family social capital scores were high.
Measures of family social capital included:
• Does the parent check the student's homework?
• Does the parent attend school meetings?
• Does the parent attend school events?
• How much trust does the parent have in the child?
• How often do students report discussing school programs, activities, and classes with parents?
"In part what's going on is that, when the children's parents are engaged in those ways, then the children pick up on it. They think, 'School is important. My parents think it's important,' and that increases their attachment to education, which translates into better achievement," Parcel said.
To measure school social capital, which is defined as a school's ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, the researchers evaluated:
• Student participation in extracurricular activities;
• Whether the school contacted parents;
• The level of teacher morale;
• The level of conflict between teachers and administrators;
• Whether teachers responded to individual student needs; and
• An overall measure of school environment that tapped delinquency, absenteeism, and violence.student at the University of California-Irvine, reported their findings in "Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement," which was published online Sept. 5 by the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.
Parcel and co-authors Dr. Mikaela Dufur, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and Kelly Troutman, a Ph.D.
Small Counseling Groups at Nottingham 2012-13
The purpose of a counseling group at school is to complement and enhance student learning by helping students improve their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. A psycho-educational group provides a safe setting where children increase their: 1) self-awareness, 2) cooperation and communication skills, and 3) ability to have fun with peers. Children learn from each other and help each other. Ultimately, the goal of an elementary support group is to PREVENT problems in the future by teaching children new skills.
The counselors are getting ready to start small groups in early October. To help us prioritize the groups we offer and the order we conduct them we need to know if you are interested in your child participating in a small group with one of us this year. Groups generally meet for 25-40 minutes per week with the number of sessions dependent on the purpose and needs of the group. This is our starting list but other groups can be added as needed:
Friendship Groups / Social Skill Development (Grades 1-4) 6-11 sessions
Friendship Groups are a fun way for students in the same grade level to make new friends and practice their social skills in a safe, small group setting. Children are invited to participate in friendship groups for a variety of reasons. A few examples include: a child who is shy or often appears to play alone during free choice time or recess, a child exhibiting behaviors that unknowingly (to the child) “turn off” others, a child who repeatedly complains of not having any friends, a child who has a hard time initiating friendships, a child who lacks self-confidence, and/or who needs a confidence boost, or a child who is very accepting and easily befriends other children (always a very beneficial addition to a group). Role models are welcome!
Emotion Management (Grades 2- 4) 8-11 sessions
These groups are designed to assist children in developing strategies to help them understand their feelings and put them in perspective so they can better relax , cope, learn and have fun with friends. The child who might benefit from being in this group may worry a lot, may show a great deal of resistance to try new experiences, may often seem anxious, have a lot of fears and/or make frequent trips to the nurse for headaches and tummy aches. Children who exhibit one of the above, or a combination, can develop understanding and coping strategies in a fun, safe environment.
Impulse Control (Grades 1 & 2) 9-10 sessions
By utilizing the principles of learning such as modeling, role-playing, feedback and transfer students will be taught prosocial behaviors. Children will be encouraged to “think before they act” by providing them with new skills, sufficient practice and reinforcement in their home and school environments.
Families In Separate Homes (Grade 1) or All Kinds of Families (Grade 3) 8-9 sessions
Family Change Groups are for students whose family is something other than the traditional mom, dad, and child(ren). These groups are beneficial to students by enabling them to meet other children going through a similar experience. Many students find comfort in discovering they are “not the only one” in the school with a family that has experienced a change or does not look like the families of most of their classmates. Students also develop a greater comfort discussing feelings and skills they might need to express themselves.
Study Skills and Organization Groups (Grades 4 & 5) 6-8 sessions
Being successful in school and building a solid academic foundation is important to future success. Based on the specific needs of the group skill building activities will be taught, practiced, encouraged, structured, and maintained for children to be successful. These skills may consist of listening, focusing, being organized, using time efficiently, knowing how to study, completing homework, knowing how to take tests, and maintaining a good attitude are all essential skills for school success.
Girl Empowerment (Grades 4 & 5) 6-7 sessions
These groups are designed to strengthen self-esteem and self-perception. The groups promote awareness about how certain environments can affect self-esteem and encourages resiliency.
5th Grade Book & Bag Lunch (Separate Groups for Girls and Boys) 6-7 sessions
All 5th grade students are invited to participate in a 5th Grade book discussion group at lunch that will focus on peer relationships and how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of friendship. Students who sign up will be loaned a book to read and discuss dealing with topics that include peer pressure, cliques, being different, and fitting in.
Lunch Bunch (Kindergarten) 3-5 sessions
All kindergarten students are invited to participate in our informal “Lunch Bunch" program. Students whose parents sign them up are periodically invited to come eat their lunch in the counselor's office with a few of their classmates. Lunch bunches provide a chance for conversation and games. The focus is on developing friendship and social skills. Groups rotate each week to ensure that all students get an opportunity to participate.
Most children can benefit from participation in a small group. Students can be invited to join a group by parent request, teacher suggestion, or by student request. We do our best to work around your child’s schedule and not interrupt their academic learning. If you'd like for your child to participate, contact one of the counselors.
Welcome back for another exciting school year. This year Ms. Bresnahan will again work with kindergarten and she will also be the third grade counselor. She will be at Nottingham on Thursdays and Fridays. Dr. McCormac, the full-time counselor, will work with grades 1, 2, 4, and 5. Both counselors are available to meet with parents by appointment. The first week of school we will be doing "Welcome" sessions for all students new to Nottingham in grades 1-5 and displaying their pictures on the bulletin board in the main hallway. We will go into the classrooms to introduce ourselves and our program. Beginning the second week of school students in grades 3-5 will be taught weekly lessons by one of the counselors. These will go through Thanksgiving and cover academic, career, and personal/social competencies. After Thanksgiving, students in K-2 will have a lesson every other week taught by one of the counselors.
If you are the parent of a new kindergarten student or a student new to Nottingham, please join the counseling program and the PTA for our "Boo Hoo" kick-off breakfast the first day of school beginning at 8:50am in the library. Come for a few tips on transitions and to meet other Nottingham parents.
Year In Review
Counseling Advisory Committee
We want to thank both staff and parents who served on the Committee this year. The committee members were:
Mary Beth Pelosky and John Koutsouftikis
Marlyn Fitz, Carol Sacks, Elizabeth Berendt Hughes, and Colleen Hughes
Katie Biechman, Donna Jensen, Anne Stewart, and Nicole Gustafson
Mary Beth McCormac and Kaitlin Bresnahan
The work of the committee this year included developing and monitoring school counseling program goals and tackling the issue of how best to celebrate diversity at Nottingham. Thank you for your service!
This year we tried our first online parent book club. About 22 staff and parents read "Little Girls Can Be Mean." However, only a few posted comments on Blackboard to discuss reactions. Many people reported that Blackboard is not user friendly for this type of format so we will explore alternatives next year.
The counseling staff and librarian collaborate to address the issue of helping students become good cyber citizens. In June all students will get lessons in the library about internet safety and a reminder about cyber-bullying. Next year we are planning a half day devoted to this to alternate with the career fair.
The "Books and Bag Lunch" groups for 5th graders led by the Student Services staff was expanded this year. Two new books were added to the mix and both were well received.
We will not be conducting a formal needs assessment of the counseling program this school year; however, all suggestions are welcome. Please send any ideas to Dr. McCormac.